US urged to avoid conflicts as Washington plans economic measures against Beijing

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/2 23:23:40

Washington plans economic measures against Beijing

US State Secretary Rex Tillerson delivers a speech to State Department employees in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, May 3, 2017. (Xinhua/Bao Dandan)

Both the US and China should maintain their strategic composure and try to broaden common interests amid reports that the US is planning trade measures against China, experts said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Tuesday that relations between China and the US have reached a "pivot point" and called for efforts to avoid "open conflict."

Politico reported that US President Donald Trump's top advisers are huddling behind the scenes in a bid to craft a set of economic measures meant to punish China, as Trump believes China is not doing enough to stop North Korea, as well as engaging in unfair trade practices.

This is not the first time that Sino-US relations have come to a so-called crossroads since the two countries established diplomatic relations. Unlike previous US administrations, which viewed China as a strategic competitor or a main rival of the Obama administration's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, the new administration views ties more pragmatically, said Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University.

Sino-US ties cannot be defined unilaterally by either side, and to answer the question, both parties must be clear about what kind of friendship they need, said Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies.

"The question now … is how to define this relationship and how to ensure that economic prosperity to the benefit of both countries and the world can continue," Tillerson said at a Tuesday briefing.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Trump is considering encouraging an investigation into Chinese trade practices under the 1974 Trade Act's section 301.

Section 301 allows the US president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions to "protect US industries from unfair trade practices of foreign countries."

Economic imbalance has been and will always be a constant source of conflicts between the world's two largest economies, said Ruan, adding that imposing trade sanctions is the wrong prescription from the Trump administration's wrong diagnosis of the problems in Sino-US economic and trade ties.

The right thing to do is to find and broaden the common interests of the two, such as relaxing restrictions and increasing US exports to China, as the common interests far outweigh the divergences, even though the latter are unlikely to disappear in the short run, Ruan said.

The redistribution of economic benefits will always be a focus of Sino-US relations, and China should always prepare countermeasures when its interests are violated, Wu said.

Meanwhile, Trump's government includes many pragmatic officials, and China should find ways to cooperate with them to find effective ways to ease misunderstandings and expand mutual benefits, Wu added.

Experts also noted the four high-level dialogues between China and the US agreed on at the Mar-a-Lago summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump in April should be fully utilized as platforms to seek mutual benefits.


China has faced increasing accusations from the US government since Trump took office. The accusations include, but not limited to, being "a steel dumper," a "thief" of its intellectual property, and a country that should have but failed to pressure North Korea over its missile and nuclear tests.

The accusations come together with changes in US foreign and trade policy, with more and more restrictive policies and an increasing military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

"The US is variable in bilateral ties since Trump took office, as it constantly challenges China's bottom line by words or deeds and is willfully putting the ties in jeopardy," Ruan said.

The change comes at a time when the US government faces increasing domestic discontent and follows a series of misguided foreign policies of previous administrations that the current government is unable to deal with, he said.

"Under these circumstances, China is the best scapegoat for the US," he noted.

However, the US should realize that China will never tolerate its core interests being violated, nor will it negotiate or compromise on issues involving its core interests, such as political and military exchanges between the US and the island of Taiwan, Ruan added.

China should resolutely fight back when its core interests are violated, and it should also warn the violators that they could never take advantage of China, Wu said. 

Newspaper headline: US urged to avoid conflicts

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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